Home Business UK Supreme Court rules Uber drivers are workers not contractors

UK Supreme Court rules Uber drivers are workers not contractors

A driver uses the Uber app to drop off a passenger in London.

Chris J. Ratcliffe | Bloomberg via Getty Images

LONDON — Uber lost a crucial legal fight in the U.K. on Friday as the country’s Supreme Court upheld a ruling that its drivers are workers, not independent contractors.

The Supreme Court voted unanimously to dismiss Uber’s appeal against the ruling. The decision could have huge implications for Uber’s U.K. business, as well as the wider gig economy.

Friday’s verdict concludes an almost five-year legal battle between Uber and a group of former drivers who claim they were workers entitled to employment rights like a minimum wage, holiday pay and rest breaks.

In 2016, an employment tribunal ruled in favor of the drivers, led by Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar, who claimed they were workers employed by Uber and therefore entitled to certain labor protections.

Uber insists its drivers are self-employed and that it acts as more of an “agency” which connects them with passengers through an app. Uber wants to keep the legal classification of its drivers as independent contractors unchanged, arguing drivers prefer this “gig” model as it’s more flexible — it also benefits Uber from a cost perspective.

“We respect the Court’s decision which focused on a small number of drivers who used the Uber app in 2016,” Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, said in a statement Friday.

“Since then we have made some significant changes to our business, guided by drivers every step of the way. These include giving even more control over how they earn and providing new protections like free insurance in case of sickness or injury.”

Heywood added: “We are committed to doing more and will now consult with every active driver across the UK to understand the changes they want to see.”

The U.K. case echoes Uber’s legal fight with Californian regulators, who last year attempted to reclassify drivers of Uber and other ride-hailing services like Lyft as employees to grant them more employment protections.

But voters supported a ballot measure called Proposition 22, which exempted Uber and other gig economy platforms from reclassifying drivers as employees.

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